Welcome back! I missed the NBA. And I missed you, dear readers. Glad to have this space we can share together again.
The first three days of NBA ball have taught us much, and there are a lot of names in this column. As I've come to expect over the years, the CBS community is quick to pick up the best options, but hopefully there's something to help everyone, regardless of how deep or shallow or sharp your league is.
As you'd expect, the waiver wire is deep this week. Three players are stop-everything-go-now must-adds, and a whole lot more have attractive potential.
And, of course, our annual cautionary note: don't panic-drop your middle-round picks. Daniel Gafford and Jabari Smith put up disappointing stats in their first games, but there's a reason analysts widely hyped them and went inside the top 100 in every industry draft I was a part of. Don't panic on earlier picks with tremendous upside after one disappointing night.
As we do every year, the players in this article must be rostered in less than two-thirds of CBS leagues. Players are listed in the order that I recommend adding them, assuming they are equally good fits for your team.
Double-check your league
Players rostered in more than two-thirds of leagues but who are still under-rostered. Double-check to make sure they aren't available in yours. In many cases, these players qualified for this article before big opening night performances, meaning managers with once-weekly waiver runs are particularly likely to see these players still available.
- Jeremy Sochan, Spurs (81% rostered)
- Gordon Hayward, Hornets (85% rostered)
- Onyeka Okongwu, Hawks (69% rostered)
- Dereck Lively, Mavericks (71% rostered)
- Mike Conley, Timberwolves (79% rostered)
- Harrison Barnes, Kings (69% rostered)
Adds for all leagues
Tillman would have been drafted in every league had we known about Steven Adams' (knee) season-long absence all offseason. The timing of the Adams news – after ADPs had mostly settled and most preseason content had already been published – meant that many drafters missed Tillman's new status as a must-roster player. He started and played 34 minutes in the opener, and that role will likely persist all season. The 24-year-old fourth-year player should provide strong out-of-position assists and steals while also helping in rebounds and chipping in a few threes.
Note: I would prioritize Tillman over everyone listed in "double-check your leagues" except for Sochan.
Jalen Johnson, Hawks (41% rostered)
Johnson's box score was the first big waiver wire breakthrough of the season. Scoring 21 points in 29 minutes is certainly eye-catching, but what really matters is how sustainable it felt. A few of the names listed below (especially Brown and Thomas) had better season opener, but Johnson's was the one that felt the most sticky. I've never been a huge believer in Saddiq Bey, and De'Andre Hunter and Bogdan Bogdanovic are incapable of staying healthy. Johnson matched Bey in total minutes, and Johnson was a part of the closing unit. Therefore, not only does Johnson feel safely entrenched as Atlanta's sixth man, but he's more likely to see his workload increase than decrease. He's an absolute must-add.
Note: I would prioritize Johnson over everyone listed in "double-check your leagues" except for Sochan.
I'm a huge Bruce Brown fan. I rostered him in dynasty all the way back in his days as a Piston. It brings me no pleasure to report that I'm highly skeptical of his ability to recreate his opening night box score. He scored 24 points, the third-highest total of his career, and a career-best six threes. With that caveat out of the way – wow, what a night from Brown. His versatility has always been his calling card, and the Pacers will likely ask him to score more than the Nets or Nuggets ever did. He should be safely entrenched as a high-minutes starter. Though we may have already missed his best game of the season, it's possible that line was more a product of his new role than a random explosive performance. He's a priority pickup just due to the possibility that he can reliably repeat 75% of this.
As with Brown above, and Thomas and Strus below, Stewart had a fantastic opening night, but I'm worried about the repeatability. Stewart went 14-14-2 in 35 minutes as a starter. The problem is that he will be fighting Marvin Bagley and James Wiseman for minutes all season – winning that battle decisively in Game 1 does not guarantee that he'll maintain such an advantage. Additionally, Stewart provides little defensive help, so the big man must maintain minutes and volume to remain rosterable. He's worth adding in case he does hold onto this workload. Just be cautious about who you're dropping here.
Cameron Thomas, Nets (43% rostered)
Will Thomas continue to score 36 points per game? Absolutely not. Could he be one of the top two or three scorers on the Nets? Very easily. Based on his first two seasons, Thomas is a point-and-threes specialist who can help a little in assists and FT% while hurting everywhere else. But the amount of points Thomas might provide is hard to acquire on waivers, so many managers should overlook his deficiencies.
The Cavaliers spent all last season desperate for a reliable small forward. After one game, it looks like Strus could be the perfect fit. He played 39 minutes, an absurd figure sure to come down, but also a testament to how important he is to the coaching staff's current plan. He can't average 27-12 on this team, but his ability to do that in the opener speaks to his talent and versatility. His best-case upside is probably lower than that of Brown, Stewart, or Thomas. However, of the four of them, Strus is the one I most expect to remain on fantasy rosters all season.
Other recommendations: Daniel Gafford, Wizards (63% rostered); Coby White, Bulls (63% rostered); Jonathan Kuminga, Warriors (57% rostered); Kelly Oubre, 76ers (64% rostered); Immanuel Quickley, Knicks (66% rostered); De'Anthony Melton, 76ers (26% rostered); Dillon Brooks, Rockets (55% rostered); Gary Trent, Raptors (50% rostered); Kevon Looney, Warriors (56% rostered); Jonathan Isaac, Magic (16% rostered); Talen Horton-Tucker, Jazz (48% rostered); Aleks Vezenkov, Kings (19% rostered); Killian Hayes, Pistons (18% rostered); Santi Aldama, Grizzlies (26% rostered);
Deep League Special
Take note: some players listed in the "other recommendations" section above are likely to be available in many deep leagues (Vezenkov, Isaac, Hayes, etc); I would recommend those players above the names listed below. This section is for widely available players who, for one reason or another, are not well suited to most standard-sized leagues but make intriguing options given the different strategic considerations of a deeper league.
Isaiah Hartenstein, Knicks (8% rostered)
Mitchell Robinson had a highly impactful playoffs, distracting people from a critical March storyline: Robinson lost minutes to Hartenstein. The gap between these two centers, both in terms of ability and projected workload, is overstated. In fact, Hartenstein saw more minutes than Robinson in the opener. Hartenstein has a solid role that could increase with time, and his skillset is very Fantasy friendly. Decent production now, plus the potential for an increased role with time, is the ideal combination for a deep league waiver pickup.
Ziaire Williams, Grizzlies (9% rostered)
Williams didn't do much in the season opener, but he did start and play 29 minutes. With Adams out for the season and Dillon Brooks in Houston, minutes are available in this rotation. Williams could give some points, threes, rebounds and steals if this workload maintains.